The Impacts Of Quartz Crystals On The Watchmaking
Time is an essential component of our day-to-day lives and watches are perhaps the first instrument that allowed us to keep the track time, with the flip of our wrists. Before the invention of mechanical watches in the 14th century, time was kept track of by observing the location of the sun in the sky. A slightly more precise method was the use of a sundial. Sunlight would fall on a vertical pole, and the casted shadow would provide a relatively more accurate time reading.
The mechanical clock, invented in the 14th century, used gears, wheels, levers, powered by a falling weight of a pendulum provided a much more concise and consistent method. By the 18th century, with the help of development in metal technology and the use of sapphires, small pocket watches became an essential part of day-to-day lives. However, the central problem still remained the same, mechanical parts have a tendency to wear down, break and become inaccurate. This problem was solved in the 1970s, with the help of piezoelectricity.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the usage of microchips and quartz crystals, the central problem around watches were solved. The microchip sends the signal to the dial of the watch and because it’s a non-mechanical component, it doesn’t wear out.
Most of the watches being made today are quartz watches, with very few mechanical watches being made today. Mechanical watches are generally very expensive and are usually seen as an artistic piece, rather than a tool.
Watches are generally classified into two types – Analog and Digital. A digital clock consists of an LED screen, which is used to display time. These are perhaps the most accurate watches, considering their cost. On the other hand, an analog clock usually consists of three hands, large and bold markings which signify the hour, and four small markings in between two of the large markings.
Among the three hands, the hour hand is the small in length and thicker in size, the minute hand is slightly longer and thinner, with the second hand being the longest and thinnest. Many of the watches these days, both analog and digital, allow us to check the day of the week, date of the month, time in 24-hour format, time in different time zones, and some really expensive variants also have the ability to show the phase of the moon! Usually, while purchasing a timepiece, one should take note of the accuracy period of the watch, the higher the accuracy period is, the more expensive the timepiece is.
Method of Use
Watches are mostly used in three different manners – like a wall clock, wristwatch and lastly as a pocket watch. It’s pretty self-explanatory on how these are used. A wall clock usually has a hook which can be used to hang on a wall, a wristwatch is tied around the wrist with types of straps made up of different kinds of material like leather or metal. Pocketwatch is a watch that is supposed to be carried in a pocket. These were mostly used in the 16th century and are a thing to look out for now.
Using a watch can be quite overwhelming, but it’s not that complicated. An LED clock, simply has an LED screen that tells the time. An analog clock, on the other hand, has 12 markings around the dial, which refer to the hour of the day and are pointed towards by a shorthand. Between each individual marking, there 4 small markings, which are useful while referring to the minute of the day. So for example, if the hour hand is pointing towards 6 and the minute hand is pointing at 3, time is 6:15 (5×3=15).
Setting up a clock requires us to put a battery inside of it. Now, this can vary from one clock to another, but in most of the clocks, there are two ways. Either, there is a small indentation on the back of the watch which can be used to remove the backplate, or there are screws on the back which are to be removed. After that just put the battery in, and put the plate back in place, just the way you removed it.
After putting the battery in place, we need to set the time. To set the time in an analog clock, pull the crown on the side of the watch, this will make the clock stop and now the user can rotate the crown to set the hands of the watch to the desired time and push the crown back to get the clock running. On an LED clock, just hold the main button on the watch till the time starts blinking and now the user can repeatedly press the main button to change the time.
Method of Manufacture
Most of the watches these days are made up of modern materials like plastic and metal alloys. The case which safeguards the hand movement is made up of plastics ( in cheaper variants ) and metals ( invariants which are more expensive ). All watches have a stainless steel backing which safeguards the gear movement. LCD watches have liquid crystals sandwiched between its glass pieces. LED watches generally are made up of different alloys such as Gallium Arsenide, Gallium Phosphide or Gallium arsenide phosphide. Gold which is an ideal conductor for electricity is used between parts for electrical contact in a very small amount. Lastly, quartz is also used in watchmaking and is perhaps the most essential raw material in watches.
Extraction and Implementation of Quartz – This tiny piece of quartz is perhaps the heart of the watch. It is usually cut by the manufacturer with the help of a diamond saw. A device named autoclave is used to give the natural quartz its desired shape. Quartz, in its natural form, dissolves in hot alkaline liquid and follows the shape of the seeds on the autoclave. This process takes place at around 400-degree celsius.
After 75 days, the chamber is opened and the piece is cut into different shapes and sizes as per our requirement of frequency as it depends on the size and shape of the quartz. In this process, one should take that there are no changes made to the chemical property of quartz, we are just changing its shape. Usually, the desired rate of frequency is around 1,00,000 megaHertz of 1,00,000 oscillations per second. The quartz-crystal has its frequency checked before implementation.
Despite the very low thermal coefficient of quartz, the temperature change can lead to a change in its frequency. To prevent this, the quartz is sealed in a vacuum chamber, which has wires attached to its both ends, so that the piece can be directly implemented on the circuit board.
The electronic leads produced by the battery carrying the quartz is made to pass through the microchip which serves as a “frequency dividing circuit”. The manufacturing of microchip, just like the quartz is a very error-prone process as it involves the etching of microscopic electronic circuit on a minuscule piece of silicon dioxide.
The 1,00,000 are made to pass-through this microchip and are reduced to a much more manageable number of 1 to 60 oscillations per second. This is passed through another microchip which serves as a “counter decoder driver”. It checks the total no. of signals being received. For eg, if the no. of signals being received is 60, it will send a signal of changing the reading on LED on every second, etc.
The entire set is implied on a circuit board that has a space reserved for the battery which provides electric power for quartz and LED display. The battery is applied at the back of the case, which allows it to be changed when the potential difference between its electrodes burns out, without hampering the other components of the watch. The mechanism is then connected to the desired amount of pins, which allows the owner to control its various components such as time, alarm, etc. Lastly, the entire circuit is enclosed inside a case and in the case of a wristwatch, straps are also attached.
In conclusion, I only want to emphasize the great impact quartz has made on the process of watchmaking. The tiny microchip in a quartz watch can hold a huge amount of information, which allows the user to perform many more functions, such as setting alarms or keeping track of the multiple time zones. Usage of quartz in watches has brought down the prices of watches to a significant level, allowing it to reach the masses. Quartz signifies the true meaning of engineering, i.e. making people’s lives easier, irrespective of their financial boundaries.
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